Founded in New York, in 1916, the Friends of Irish Freedom's purpose has been to support Irish Republican prisoners and their dependents. By 1950, the organization had faded. In 1970, experienced, established Irish Republicans in New York City founded the Irish Northern Aid Committee (Noraid). After the 1986 split amongst Republicans in Ireland, in 1989 members of Noraid, dedicated Irish Republicans, saw "the writing on the wall" regarding (Provisional) Sinn Fein. Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) was then revived.
Since then, FOIF has supported Irish Republican prisoners & their families, working with Sister Sarah Clarke, the Tyrone Prisoners Dependents Fund, and others. FOIF supports Republican Prisoners regardless of affiliation. For over 20 years, FOIF has assisted prisoners in England, Ireland, & the USA.
- FOIF hosts the largest annual Easter Mass & Commemoration in the United States
- FOIF is the only prisoner support group in the New York City's St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
- FOIF runs numerous memorial ads, articles, and letters in American newspapers, publicizing the plight of Irish Republican Prisoners and raising awareness.
- FOIF organized protests at the British Consulate, most recently during the fall of 2010
FOIF has never been asked by any group in Ireland to raise money on their behalf. FOIF does not give money to other organizations; donations are given directly to families only. FOIF is an all-volunteer, independent Irish American organization. Its independence is valued.
As it has done every year, FOIF organized Christmas donations for prisoners' families. The committee determined that each child that FOIF was aware of would receive $50, and the remaining funds would be divided among single prisoners' families at $75 per man. It is the belief of FOIF that prisoners with children need more support than single men. 19 prisoners were selected from an incomplete list of current prisoners. FOIF sent Christmas cards containing the donations to each family. The 19 cards written by FOIF members were individually addressed and sealed.
In the 22 years that FOIF has been donating money for prisoners' families, there has never been a problem.
This year, FOIF's Christmas money was delivered by hand before Christmas Day to a trusted, respected Republican. The donations were NOT delivered TO or FOR any organization. The recipient of the sealed envelopes contacted us to confirm the arrival of said envelopes.
By first week of January 2011, FOIF had no word the 19 envelopes were delivered to families. FOIF contacted some families to ask if they received our money. None had. This caused concern.
On Monday 10th January 2011, a press release was issued by the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) stating Christmas cards with donations from the USA were confiscated by PSNI in a ‘raid’ in Belfast at an RNU member’s place of business. It transpires that Belfast RNU Spokesperson Carl Reilly was in possession of FOIF's money when this ‘raid’ occurred.
This news was a shock to FOIF as money was not given to the RNU. It was not known why FOIF's money was in Belfast in a place of business. FOIF immediately tried to reach the person in Derry to whom the money was entrusted. FOIF received no communication from the RNU about the ‘raid’ or the status of our money and what transpired.
FOIF has a number of questions regarding what happened to its donations:
- Which cards were taken by the PSNI
- Why were FOIF's donations in Belfast on the 10th of January in a place of business
- Where the remaining 10 cards were (FOIF heard the PSNI took 9)
In response to FOIF's persistence, an email sent to the RNU National Chairman by Belfast RNU Spokesperson, Carl Reilly (who was in possession of our money when the ’raid’ occurred), was forwarded to FOIF. In it, Reilly said he did not have to explain anything to FOIF, nor did he intend to waste his time talking to us. There were additional insults in that email.
The RNU National Chairman told Reilly FOIF deserved an explanation.
Some of the other envelopes were delivered to the pows cara. The prisoners envelopes were sent to Derry after Cathleen was TOLD NOT TOO send them there but to me, SHE ignored this, the envelopes then sat in Derry over the christmas period as getting them to me over the festive period was difficult and the fact that we had the worst weather condtions in 135 years! They were not in a taxi depot they were in the Cafe, Cathleen needs to stop ringing Charlotte Natarintonio for info as it was her who told her I own a taxi depot! I opened the envelopes because she decided to only send to THREE out of the TWELVE pows that we look after, I opened them in the presence of TWO members of the RNU leadership and put the money together and divided it equally between all twelve, I will not allow Cathleen to treat any pow differently!
If Cathleen wants to know were the envolpes are? they are in the custody of the RUC!!! Cathleen has made more of the fact that I had the envolpes than she has of the RUC stealing them!!! John Bradys envolpe like the others is part of the RUC raid! Cathleen can rescind permisson all she likes for FOIF name to be used....RNU has its own pow department now and hasnt used the FOIF name in some time!!! I do have her email and number, I will not be wasting my time talking to a crackpot! If Cathleen has ANY issues with me or how things worked out over christmas, tell her to contact ME!!! ps plz forward this email to her if you wish cara!
Previously, in November 2010, Carl Reilly told FOIF on the phone that FOIF were “to take orders and directives” from him. He stated on the phone FOIF was to have no contact with anyone else in Ireland but him. He stated all money raised for prisoners by FOIF was to be sent to him. He refused to send FOIF a prisoners list. FOIF's response was to tell him in no uncertain terms that “FOIF is an independent organization and takes ‘orders’ from no one”. He was told FOIF does not send money to organizations.
It has been confirmed that Belfast RNU Spokesman, Carl Reilly, opened Christmas cards addressed to prisoners' families containing money. He opened envelopes for families not affiliated to his group. He has claimed he only opened cards the PSNI were confiscating. We were told by the RNU National Chairman that Reilly opened envelopes before the raid. Reilly's email to the RNU National Chairman confirms this.
FOIF's cards and money are none of Reilly’s or the RNU’s business as it was not sent to them. This breach of trust is cause for concern.
Since the ‘raid’ took place, FOIF has been unable to determine if all families received their money.
It has also been brought to our attention that three Belfast RNU members have been slandering FOIF on the internet.
One Belfast RNU member stooped so low as to claim FOIF lied, and sent empty cards while claiming all cards contained money.
FOIF was not informed by the RNU that PSNI returned the cards and money. This was heard from other sources.
Some of the donations have since been handed over by Carl Reilly to a respected Republican who is in contact with FOIF. FOIF is grateful for her assistance.
FOIF still has unanswered questions that need answered by the RNU: where the rest of the money is and what exactly they did with every card.
- One card contained $350.00 dollars for a prisoner's seven children; when it was finally handed over by the RNU - that card was missing $150.00.
- FOIF included a card with money for the children of the late John Brady. This card and money was still missing as of Sunday 6th Feb. 2011. FOIF has not yet received confirmation of its arrival.
- FOIF learned Belfast RNU members are claiming FOIF treat prisoners differently. This is a lie. FOIF treats all prisoners the same.
- Belfast RNU members claimed FOIF posted a list of prisoners on remand on the internet. That is a lie. FOIF does not have a website yet and has never listed prisoners' names on Facebook.
- A Belfast RNU member posted a list of prisoners who in a statement allegedly said they did not want their names used and do not wish to receive money from FOIF. Some of those prisoners' families were sent Christmas envelopes by FOIF with money enclosed. FOIF does not know if their families ever received them. Those donations have not been returned to FOIF if, in fact, their families do not want them.
Private cards were sent to prisoners' families -- not to any organization.
No one had any right to open those cards except the families they were addressed to.
All prisoner support groups in Ireland are well aware of Friends Of Irish Freedom. They are also aware of US laws and restrictions. If any support group wanted more prisoners' families to receive support they simply could have sent FOIF a current list of prisoners.
It has been agreed by FOIF members that if, as alleged by Carl Reilly, there are any prisoners who do not wish their families to receive support from FOIF, we will indeed honor their wishes.
It is important to also note that the RNU representative in the USA stated that all existing Republican support groups in the USA are to be closed down and work under the RNU.
Friends of Irish Freedom will not be intimidated by attempts to slander and threaten emanating from of certain elements within the RNU.
Signed by FOIF Officers and Christmas Drive Committee
C. McLoughlin, National Chairman
J. McLoughlin, National Secretary
K. Montague, National Treasurer
C. O’Brien, National Trustee
C. Canty, Raffle Chairperson
C. P. O’Brien
The 19 prisoners whose families were sent Christmas cards:
Colin Duffy = 6 children x $50 = $300.00
Kieran Doran = 7 children x $50= $350.00
Damien McLaughlin = 2 children x $50 = $100.00
Harry Fitzsimons = 2 children x $50 = $100.00
Sean Carlin = 2 children x $50 = $100.00
Sean O'Reilly = 2 children x $50 = $100.00
Damien McKenna = 2 children x $50 = $100.00
Mickey Walsh = 2 children x $50 = $100.00
John Brady's children = 2 x $50 = $100.00
Willie Wong = $75.00
Paul McCaugherty = $75.00
Martin Corey = $75.00
Turlough McAllister = $75.00
Tony Rooney = $75.00
Sean McConville = $75.00
Brendan Conway = $75.00
Gerard McManus = $75.00
Joe Barr = $75.00
Philip O'Donnell = $75.00